LONDON • When Phil Foden was axed from the England squad earlier this month, together with Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood, for inviting women back to their hotel, Pep Guardiola defended his midfielder.
The Manchester City boss said that “Phil knows he made a mistake, I am pretty sure he is going to make a good season”.
The Spaniard is right so far. On the evidence of Monday’s display, he labelled Foden as “incredible” after the 20-year-old inspired City to start their Premier League title challenge with a 3-1 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
City’s delayed start to the campaign – due to their involvement in last season’s Champions League – had allowed Liverpool to build a six-point lead before they had even kicked a ball.
Guardiola’s side could not afford to slip up at the Molineux if they wanted to keep pace with the champions.
And they raced into a two-goal lead before half-time thanks to Kevin de Bruyne’s penalty and Foden’s cool finish.
City’s swaggering start gave way to an anxious spell as Wolves dominated after the break and they had to cling on after Raul Jimenez got one back before Gabriel Jesus sealed the points in stoppage time.
Foden’s goal was a welcome boost in his first match since he was sent home in disgrace. The breach of coronavirus protocols after England’s Nations League match in Iceland was publicly condemned by City, but Foden retains Guardiola’s trust.
“For the goal and in the second half, Foden played incredibly well, he helped us keep the ball,” Guardiola said.
“He has a big impact and makes great contributions to the team. Today was not an exception.”
While City equalled Aston Villa’s record of winning 10 consecutive opening fixtures to a top-flight season, there is little doubt Liverpool remain the Premier League’s pre-eminent force.
But Guardiola was delighted to open with a victory given the shorter than usual pre-season.
44 Premier League record for the highest number of goals scored in a single round of matches. Gabriel Jesus did it at the very last moment, scoring the milestone 44th in stoppage time of Manchester City’s 3-1 win against Wolves.
“We could not run much because we are tired in our legs but in general we did a good game,” he said.
“The situation that we had this last two weeks, I expected some moments where we suffer but in general we controlled it well.
“It was a good performance. Sometimes we need more time to get to our best condition but it was a good start to come here and win.”
It feels like a crucial season for City as they look to regain the title they won in 2018 and 2019.
After finishing 18 points behind Liverpool and suffering a shock Champions League quarter-final defeat by Lyon, City need to push Liverpool harder this term and the early signs were encouraging.
It was de Bruyne, showing no signs of relaxing after being voted PFA Player of the Year last season, who took the responsibility of driving City forward and winning the penalty that he converted with ease.
City were beaten by Wolves home and away last season, but this was Guardiola’s team at their imperious best and they struck again with a slick move in the 32nd minute finished off by Foden slotting home from close range.
Totally outclassed in the first half, Wolves were much improved after the break before Jesus’ strike.
Guardiola also confirmed that he will draft in players from the youth academy for tomorrow’s League Cup third-round match at home against Bournemouth.
“With the lack of preparation and seven players out, we have to keep the players who played today as fresh as possible,” he said.
City were without several key players at Wolves, with Ilkay Gundogan missing after testing positive for Covid-19 and Sergio Aguero and Aymeric Laporte ruled out in advance with injuries.
Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Eric Garcia were also sidelined after picking up injuries in training.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS